Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Where my friends at?

Jim and I, on almost a weekly basis, lament the fact that we "have no friends". This of course is not entirely true. We both have groups of friends from high school we spend time with on a fairly regular basis. And we have mutual college friends who we only keep in touch with on Facebook but mostly as a result of geographic proximity to one another. 

So here is our personal ad for our NEW friends:

Married White Heterosexual Couple seeking another married couple (with no preference to race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation) in local area who is looking for a good time. Couple must have children, preferably boys, one who is in grade school and the other, a toddler. Couple should enjoy great food and drinks without passing judgement on how much of either is consumed. Additionally, one member of the couple should work full time and enjoy sports, video gaming, and playing guitar and the other one should be a stay-at-home parent who likes yoga, cooking, and fucking around on the computer instead of doing housework. Ideally, our couple will be well educated but not arrogant, financially stable but not too wealthy or too poor, open minded but not so much so that they freak our kids out, think that Fox News and the Tea Party are destroying our country and that God, if he does exist, thinks all of life is just one big practical joke. 

 Am I being too picky? 

But seriously, THIS. This is why it is so hard for people in their thirties to make new friends. Why do we have all these requirements? Why was it so much easier when we were younger to meet new people? Sure, some are just realistic because it's much easier to get to know someone when they have similar, relateable interests. And it sure doesn't hurt when our kids can play together without destroying each other or our houses so we can have some time to think and act like adults. 

Maybe it's because we don't have the energy or patience that is required to cultivate new friendships, so the first time a hint of discord comes up between the families, we give up. We throw in the towel and say "Oh, they must not be worth spending our precious little free time on". So instead, we end up spending that time alone. We certainly make allowances for family, despite the fact that they often do not fit into our ideal couple/family image. And we make time for old friends in the same way. Why can't we do it for new ones?

Anyone want to be our friend?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Lame stuff old people (and me) talk about

So I haven't written anything in a while because when you are in the midst of a ceaseless illness that you down right refuse to see anyone in the medical profession about, you don't really feel like sharing. Well today, my friends, I put on my big girl panties and when to see the gastroenterologist. And was, in turn, awarded with the chance to down a gallon worth of fluid that tastes like "unsweetened Gatorade" but not before I remain on a liquid diet for the day and then wait, without food or water, the following day to have a probe inserted in my rectum at 1:00 in the afternoon. Can you tell I'm looking forward to it?

Between this, the never-ending winter, my almost 8 year old who can never seem to remember anything we ask him to do, and my demanding 2 year old, I need a vacation. Or a bottle of tequila and a Vicodin. Or maybe just Spring. Is that too much to ask?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

16 years together. 10 years of marriage. 2 kids.

I am not the mushy type. I have no advice about marriage. I cannot wax philosophically about how love conquers all. Staying in a relationship with someone for a long time is hard work, especially when you have two little humans that rely on you for everything. 

Thankfully, my father did have some advice for me on the eve of my wedding. He wrote me an email that he sent from his work that I wish I still had. But I remember that he told me that he admired the love Jim and I had for each other. He assured me that since Jim and I had made it through my accident with our relationship intact, every other struggle would pale in comparison.  

Since then, we have faced many other challenges, but we have done it together. There is no one I'd rather have spent the last sixteen (and one half!) years with. Happy anniversary, buddy.

Fall 1997. I'm not sure that Jim was legally drinking that beer.

Jim actually graduates from college. May 1998.

My 21st birthday. Jim was a saint, I was not. Dec 1998.

Disney World. 1999.
Seaside Heights. Summer 2000.

We just got hitched! Jan 2004.

Honeymoon in Cancun. Feb 2004. 

With Tommy at Chris & Elaine's wedding. 2006.

Avalon 2009.

Easter 2012

Fall 2013

Monday, January 6, 2014

Helping Nick talk: Change is hard

Pediatrician: How is Nick doing with his talking?
Me: He has about two dozen words most of which only I can understand.
Pediatrician: At his age, he should be understood by people AT LEAST half of the time. You should call Early Intervention.

At that was it. Nick's referral. I knew it was coming but I so desperately wanted to keep putting it off. Even though in my previous work I had helped other parents through the early intervention process and I personally had done it with Tommy, I kept procrastinating. I was sure he'd get better on his own or with my continued assistance. But you know what I realized? He won't, because other than him getting older, no other variable would change. His delays, although small, could snowball into a larger and more serious problem unless we introduced new ideas into his environment now.

In short, we are both going to have to change. And change can be hard.

With trepidation, I welcomed the therapists from early intervention into our house today. Through their evaluation process, they determined that he knows his shapes, can match colors, and pick an object out of a group of items when asked to do so. He can kick a ball and jump getting both feet off the ground. He can put little tiny objects into a little tiny opening of a bottle. He uses a fork to feed himself and drinks from an open cup.

But he didn't use an intelligible word the entire time they were here except for "BYE!", which was basically his way of saying "get the hell out of my house". The occupational therapist thinks he has low oral muscle tone which could explain not only his lack of verbal communication, but also his frequent drooling and desire to chew on items. They already warned me that they want me to take away his pacifier, even though he only uses it for sleep. The therapist says ever time he uses it, his mouth "resets" itself.

I explained to them that he never really liked his binkie as an infant. He never slept and I never slept. Once I weaned him from his bottle at 12 months old, he went straight for his pacifier and started sleeping wonderfully. I asked them if they knew what it felt like to not sleep more than 4-5 hours at a time at night for ONE YEAR? Or to expect to get simple chores done or time for yourself during the day only to be interrupted by an baby who naps for no longer than 45 minutes? Although sympathetic, they did not waiver. Change is hard.

In addition to low oral muscle tone, Nick needs STRONG encouragement to attend to and cooperate with activities he is not interested in doing at the moment. I thought all toddlers behaved like this but come to find out that with both my boys, they are more strong willed than most. And as a result, I have probably accommodated Nick's wishes too often as means of avoiding a meltdown from him or given him something too quickly without demanding a verbal request from him. I said to the therapists... its funny that as a parent of an infant, you are always trying so hard to assess and attend to your baby's needs as quickly as possible. But once they become a toddler, you are expected to reverse your behavior to encourage independence and allow them to satisfy their needs on their own or ask for assistance. Although sympathetic, they did not wavier. Change is hard.

I know that Nicholas' speech delay and behavioral issues are small and with minimal assistance and intervention, will most likely be resolved. But I am envious of parents of typically developing children because this. is. hard. And for those of you who have children with more challenging delays and disabilities, I salute you. You have to change your whole life to do what is best for your child. Because ignoring it is not an option.

I will have no other resolutions this year but to make the changes I need to to help Nick talk.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2014: The Year of the Pickle

Nick is two years old today. He had a birthday party and wants to tell you about it...
There is a ball pit in my house!

Is this how you do it? 

Maybe this?

It needs some milk.
Mom decorated. She is on Pinterest WAY too much.

They tell me I am two.

My GG watching me with my red balloon.

My bro. He can get crazy sometimes.

My cousin Ellie plays keep away.

My cousins Dean and Rhys really liked my house.

My family from Vermont gave me a parachute!

Aliens in Underpants is a definite read.

Oooooo. Little people trucks.

My Birthday Cake
I'm not to sure about this.

Okay. Dad's here.

Yum. I will eat the whole thing.

My cousin Jimmy & Bro Tommy

This guy is cool. I let him borrow my car.

Ellie wants a picture with me. I want to eat cake.
My Aunt Mandy (my cousins call her the Monster!)
My Mom asked if I like my birthday party and I said "Yeah".

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Magic is Gone

Three things have lost their "magical" appeal for me in the last few years:
  Walt Disney World, The Philadelphia Eagles, and Christmas.

We took Tommy to Disney World when he was two and half years old. You have my permission to laugh.

He was scared of everything. Every ride, every character. We even had to leave the park early after suffering through a long and tasteless dinner at a Magic Kingdom restaurant when he was scared of the guy's voice who narrated the parade. I think his favorite thing about that trip was meeting up with our friend's son and eating lollipops with him.

Tommy's favorite thing at Disney World

And since then, Tommy has never gotten really excited about anything at Disney World. 

But, because I didn't learn my lesson the first time, I thought we should take him there for his 5th birthday!!! How great would that be, right? Spending your birthday at one of the most magical places on Earth? When I asked him that day if he was having fun, he replied, "When are we going to go back to Grandmom's house to open presents and eat cake?"

Lesson learned. Tommy's happy just to play with friends and eat treats.

Then there is a football team from around here affectionately referred to as the "Iggles". Many of my friends who are not Philadelphia fans, my husband included, could provide me with a list a mile long about why the Eagles are not magical, have never been magical, and will never be magical. They'd probably agree with my assessment of last year's squad as "losery losers who like to lose". Even though this year's team has a lot more promise than in years past, my interest has still waned. 

Finally, there's Christmas. I feel like we just had Christmas. Like it just happened last month and I am weary at the idea of doing it all over again. Part of this may be that Christmas is filled with A LOT more stress than you would ever expect when you become a parent. Santa story-telling and visits, rationing out gift ideas to competing relatives, worrying about how much everything will cost, deciding what toys you are going to toss from last year to make room for the gifts this year and on and on. And we don't even do that Elf thing. 

But you know what I have figured out that these three things have in common? My Dad loved them all. And I think that since he is no longer here, these things don't have as much magic for me as they used to. 

He took me to Disney World with my cousins when I was two and a half years old. I feel like I remember being there and the wonder of it all even though it is probably just me remembering the re-telling of the fun we had while looking at the pictures my grandfather took.  

Brenna, Minne Mouse, Kirstie, & Kara

Kara  (foreground), Aunt Carol rockin' those super
shorty shorts, Kirstie, Uncle Joe, my Dad, me!

Donald Duck & Brenna Fach (circa 1980)

And he loved the Eagles. Every Sunday he would watch and holler and jump up and down in the family room when, inevitably, the Eagles would mess up. We sat through bitter cold at the Linc to watch Donovan McNabb get hurt (and the Eagles lose) when they played the Tennessee Titans in week 11 of the 2006 season. He even agreed to go with us to an Eagles game at the Vet in the pouring rain. And when we got there, we couldn't even see the field because we were sitting literally right behind the Eagles bench. I'll tell you what...Andy Reid's ass never looked so big!

My Dad loved every holiday, but Christmas was #1 in our house. I think his love for Christmas stemmed from how magical his parents made the holiday for him as a child. He told us that my grandfather and grandmother (ahem...I mean Santa) did everything on Christmas Eve. Decorated the tree, put out all the presents, and even set up a HUGE model train set on the dining room table. 

And he made Christmas just as special for his family. Every year he would keep me and my sisters in suspense at the top of the stairs on Christmas morning until everything was just right downstairs. And he wrapped all of my stepmother's presents the best. Shiny foil paper, big fancy bows; all her gifts arranged in their own space, perfectly. 

I miss my Dad a lot. My boys don't even really know who he was. He is just a story I tell them about. 

But I guess for their sakes (and mine), I'll keep telling the stories about my Dad, and Christmas, and the Eagles games. Maybe we'll even go back to Disney World someday. :)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

One holiday at a time

Halloween is past. The excitement of dressing up and running around the neighborhood with friends at night and then gorging on candy has come and gone. The sugar high and the excess of it all is over. Whew! So naturally, kids (and big box stores) seek out the next holiday rush...Christmas!!! More sugar, excess and stuff.

But wait! We've forgotten the one holiday this time of year that is most important for us to celebrate...Thanksgiving. Sure, the argument could be made that all that food is excessive but I prefer to think of it as abundance. Abundance of good food, family, friends and gratitude (without all the candy and gift nonsense).

I'm pretty certain that my son, Tommy, doesn't hold the same sentiment for our November holiday. In fact, he has told me that Thanksgiving is his least favorite holiday. According to him, IT STINKS! But lately I've been feeling the need to be grateful for the things I have, rather than longing for the things I don't have. To find contentment in all the ways my life is really good. To not compare my blessings to those of others.  

Robert Emmons, who is the world's leading scientific expert on gratitude and also a Ph.D. in Psychology who teaches at University of California, Davis, found through a decade worth of research that people who cultivate gratitude are more stress resistant, can block negative emotions, and have a higher sense of self-worth. For more on that topic, click here.

Who doesn't want all of THOSE things? I sure do.

So even though the stores are already shoving the Christmas season down our throats so we'll "buy, buy, buy", I thought that in our home we should REALLY celebrate Thanksgiving this year.

But how do you teach gratitude to a child when so many of the messages he is bombarded with tell him more stuff = more happiness?  I myself am just beginning to adopt the belief that less stuff means a simpler, easier way of life and I am about to turn 36. Even if I threw away all the toy catalogs that come in the mail and turn the TV commercials off, I think he would still get these messages from his friends at school, when we go out shopping, and even from other adults.

So in an attempt to counteract what for the most part is marketing strategy and instead focus on what is really important in our lives, we have put up a thankful tree this year made out of brown paper bags, construction paper, and our hand prints.

Yes, it is kind of hokey and trite. But so is chopping down an evergreen to stick in your living room, decorating it, and then waiting for a rotund, jolly man to slide down your chimney to leave you presents. And this tradition could even have positive effects on our physical and emotional well-being if you believe what Dr. Emmons has to say.

Another way in which our family is trying to show thankfulness this year is by volunteering to help Tommy's class assemble a box of food for a needy family for the holiday. And we are making the very long trip to see Jim's sister's family in Vermont for Thanksgiving since we haven't seen them for a very long time. Food, family, and gratitude. Life couldn't be any simpler or get any better than that.  

Do you have ways that you cultivate gratitude during Thanksgiving or other times of the year? I'd love to hear about them if you are willing to share!